In addition to being a great activity to help keep your little ones busy and engaged, getting them involved in the kitchen has many awesome benefits. Kids who are involved in meal prep are more likely to eat their food and gain an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle that can extend into adulthood. Plus, recipe reading allows them to practice several skills that can be applied to school, such as allowing them to practice reading skills and measuring ingredients being an easy way to visualize and understand fractions for math. Cooking can also help with developing creativity and feelings of accomplishment that boost self-esteem. With so many benefits of getting kids involved in the kitchen, how can you make it happen? Here are some of our favorite ways to get kids involved in the kitchen.
Let Them Help with Shopping and Exploring Food
Kids love to have choices and empowering them in making their own decisions is a great way to help your child explore and discover new foods as well as increase the likelihood of trying something new. Involving your child in the process of grocery shopping is a great way to introduce them to understanding where their food comes from as well as the process of purchasing items - if it’s available, a farmer’s market can be a great weekend activity to do this as you can connect directly with the farmers. When shopping, try allowing your child the option between two items or offer them the opportunity to pick out one new item or product to try each week to empower your kids to get excited about food and trying new things.
Although it sounds simple, eating together as a family has so many benefits for helping your child to learn about and experience food in a way that’ll make them keen to get into the kitchen with you. Plus, it teaches healthy eating habits, boosts self-esteem, improves communication skills, and allows you a natural opportunity to teach them about kitchen safety. But, you can get them started before you even sit down to eat by having them create a menu for your meal or helping to set the table as age-appropriate. And, because we’re all super busy these days, you can make eating together easier by checking out our 10 Super Quick and Super Healthy Kid Friendly Dinners.
Introduce Age-Appropriate Tasks
Kids of all ages can get involved in the kitchen and start learning about kitchen safety and what goes into making and preparing food. Here are a few different tasks to get kids involved based on their age:
- Two and Under. This age might seem too young to get involved in the kitchen, children under age two can begin to experience cooking simply by having them watch you in the kitchen. This is also a great time to allow them to explore kitchen tools, such as spatulas and non-breakable pans and bowls.
- Two to Three Years Old. Although toddlers require plenty of supervision, they can learn to help out in the kitchen with tasks such as washing fruits and vegetables, pouring pre-measured ingredients into mixing bowls, sprinkling salt and herbs, and mixing batters.
- Four to Five Years Old. By preschool age, children are learning to develop more fine motor skills that can be further finessed and practiced in the kitchen. Some ideas include learning how to cut with a safe knife, cracking an egg, kneading dough, spreading condiments onto toast or a bun, and juicing lemons and limes.
- Six Years and Up. By the time they’re into elementary school, kids can become much more involved in the kitchen and progress their skills until they’re able to complete a recipe on their own with minimal supervision. Some ideas to work on in this age range include peeling fruits and vegetables, using real knives, grating cheese, using a can opener, greasing baking dishes, and scooping batter into pans.
Allow Kids to Pack Their Own Lunches
In addition to giving them a little extra responsibility, allowing your kids to pack their own lunches will make them all that much more likely to eat their lunch--as well as learn about combining foods and ingredients. A great way to get them started with packing their own lunch is to think of a simple formula their lunch should consist of: for example, a protein, carb, veggie, and fruit. Keep lists of go-to’s for each category on the fridge to make it easy for your kid to customize their lunch to their tastes while still ensuring they’re getting a balanced meal.
Cooking for others is a fun way to get in the kitchen and begin inspiring feelings of appreciation and gratitude for others. Kids who have experience with baking can make easy foodie gifts for neighbors and loved ones like Cranberry Almond Granola Jars, Christmas Butter Cookies, Chai Tea Mix, and Gingerbread Cookies. Younger children can get involved by measuring or pouring ingredients for mixes like Homemade Instant Pancake Mix, Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix, or Chocolate Peppermint Christmas Cookie Mix. Plus, all this time in the kitchen helps with developing empathy that can be carried on beyond the holiday season.
Choose Simple Meals
Allowing kids to pick out simple meals to create is a great way to get them excited to start cooking. Giving your little one their own cookbook makes a great gift and, from there, you can allow them to pick out a recipe and participate in determining what ingredients they need and then assembling the recipe (with mom and dad for help as needed). Even younger children who can’t read yet can begin flipping through cookbooks and looking at pictures to pick out a meal they’d like the create.
Allow for Creativity
Although it can be anxiety-provoking to give your kid free rein in the kitchen (and to try their concoctions), cooking is truly an experiment. Give your child the opportunity to combine ingredients together to determine how batters are formed and how different flavors work together. A fun way to do this is to pick out one ingredient from the fridge and begin to think about the different things that you might create with that item. Once you do try out combinations of foods, allow your child to reflect on the experience by asking leading questions about what they liked about their creation, and what they might do differently next time.